Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

An Urban Dictionary to All Things COVID

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theologyand culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he…

  • 2021 Mar 08

The staff of the Seattle Times put together an urban dictionary for all things COVID that was one-part hysterical, and the other part telling. Without commentary, here were some of my favorites:

Anti-maskersn., pl. | Definition: People who refuse to wear a mask or who believe they should not be required to wear a mask to engage in civil society. Example: “The anti-maskers think it is unreasonable that they should be asked to wear a mask before entering a store.”

Apocabae, n. Definition: The partner you found toward the end of the Before Times (see: “Before Times”), or right at the start of the COVID-19 era — i.e., right as it seemed like the world as we knew it was ending. Generally denotes a person you might have entered into a relationship with — official or unofficial — after a truncated “dating” period, and because the pandemic happened, you ended up quarantining together (see: “quarantine”) and, well, now you’re just living together comfortably (maybe in sin?) like an old married couple. Example: “This is Josh, my apocabae. We met last February, but we’ve been living together for exactly a year now!”

Before Timesn. | Definition: Denotes a time before the coronavirus pandemic and multiple crises — in the form of attempted insurrections, civil rights movements and climate crises — that have piled on since the pandemic began. Typically said with a hauntingly sad emphasis on “before” to indicate a time immemorial when we were not all locked in our homes and grimace-smiling behind masks at anyone outside of our own domiciles. Adding an “ah” before the phrase accentuates the nostalgia for boredom and mundanity that punctuated said “Before Times.” Example: “Remember back in the Before Times when we used to just casually touch door handles as if they weren’t potentially covered in deadly virus particles?”

COVID, n. Definition: Colloquial term for COVID-19. (See also, “The ’Rona.”) Example: “Geez, get your maskless face away from me! I don’t want to get the COVID!”

Covidiotn. | Definition: Mashup of “COVID” and “idiot.” An epithet generally used to describe (or shame) either a person who doesn’t believe the coronavirus is a real thing, or a person who puts others at risk by flouting coronavirus safety protocols. Example: “Are you seriously going to a Super Bowl party at a stranger’s house that two dozen people have been invited to? Don’t be a covidiot!”

Emaskulationn. | Definition: A mental condition experienced by some adolescents and adults, primarily male-identified, characterized by the delusion that taking steps to limit the transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., wearing a mask, social distancing) will diminish their strength, vigor and overall standing among peers. It may be an aspect of chronic insecurity, denialism and/or aggressive indifference to the well-being of others. Example: “Stan always refuses hand sanitizer — he suffers from emaskulation.”

Hand distinction, n. | Definition: The act of designating one hand (or finger, in which case we call it “finger distinction”) to touch “outside,” potentially coronavirus-infected surfaces when you’re in public. Generally, one hand is designated the “touching hand” and the other is reserved for more hygienic purposes, such as scratching an itch on your person. Example: “Oh no! I screwed up my hand distinction system by adjusting my glasses with the hand I just used to grab the grocery cart! Arrrgh!”

Mask mismatchn. | Definition: The social phenomenon in which one half of a couple (typically the male) does not wear a mask in public, while their partner does. A possible corollary to emaskulation. Example: “Have you noticed that Katie always wears two masks and Jim’s is always dangling from his ear? What a mask mismatch.”

Masknen. | Definition: Acne resulting from excessive mask-wearing — often occurs if mask has not been laundered or switched out enough. Example: “Ahhhh!!! Mom! My maskne is severe today!”

Masky-matchy, adj. | Definition: Used to describe a very fashionable person whose mask and outfit are on point together. Example: “Damn, Daniel! Those white Vans are so masky-matchy with that white mask!”

Outdoor setupn. | Definition: The facilities you have created or amassed for outdoor socializing throughout the COVID-19 winter. Example: “Between our fire pit, oversized tent and portable space heater, we’ve got a killer outdoor setup on our patio.”

Pandemic pet, n. Definition: A dog, cat, bird, hamster or other cute pet similar to the thousands of animals that people acquired after the pandemic emptied offices and stay-home orders resulted in people working from home for months. What better time to potty-train a dog? Example: “The run on people going out to get pandemic pets emptied animal shelters last spring — one of the few silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Pandemic pod, n. Definition: A nuclear group of friends or close family members that’s a social construct of the coronavirus era. Generally numbers under five (see: “social distancing”). The tiny, select group of people you’ve nervously decided you’re OK seeing from a distance, with masks, because you’re comfortable with their pandemic hygiene practices and have determined that their low-risk behavior (hopefully) poses limited risk to you. Think of them as the COVID-era equivalent of the Myspace-era top eight friends list. Example: “Let’s hang out with the pandemic pod in front of our fire pit on Friday night.”

Panoramic, panini press, panorama, pantaloon, palindrome, you get the picture …, n. |Definition: Things we say when we mean “pandemic,” but after a year in lockdown, we need some variety. Any absurd word that begins with “pan” will do. Example: “You’re having a party? But we’re in a panini press!”

Pivot, v. | Definition: Perhaps the most-used business-related buzzword of 2020. Used to describe how a wide variety of businesses had to quickly toss out their old business plans and adopt new strategies to get through the pandemic and all COVID-19 lockdown-related restrictions. Example: “After pivoting from fine dining to drive-in burgers, Seattle restaurant Canlis pivoted yet again and started an outdoor crab shack over the summer.”

Plans, n.pl. | Definition: A historical term used to describe social engagements people in the Before Times were able to make with other people — frequently in public, among crowds of other humans. Now seldom used. Because who has plans anymore? Example: “Do you have any plans this weekend?” “No.”

Quaranteenn. | Definition: Young people who have spent some part of their teenage years in lockdown or quarantine (see: “quarantine”) during the pandemic. Used by adults in a plaintive manner; used by quaranteens with an air of bragging about how much harder they’ve had it than their parents did when they were teenagers. Example: “Ugh, mom! You can’t keep taking our devices away! We’re quaranteens, there’s literally nothing else to do!”

Quarantinen. | Definition: The two-week period of isolation you must serve if you do anything considered even remotely risky in terms of COVID-19 safety standards. Want to hop on an airplane? You’d better quarantine beforehand. Returning home from having been on an airplane? You’d better quarantine on the back end. Can also be used as verb. Example (n.): “Oh no, you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus? You’d better start your quarantine, too!” Example (v.): “Sorry, we can’t make it. We’re quarantining this week because we have to visit mom next Sunday in Portland.”

So, if you remember back in the Before Times before you had a hand distinction and were looking to be all masky-matchy, at least be thankful for your new outdoor setup, pandemic pet and pod—and, if you’re like me, you’re well past having a quaranteen.

James Emery White


“From ‘Anti-masker’ to ‘Zooming’: Words and Phrases That Have Become Part of our COVID-19 Vocabulary,” Seattle Times, February 26, 2021, read online

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. 

His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. 

Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

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